Last year, a three-year old opened a Christmas present and told off his parents when he discovered a book instead of a toy. So amuses were the parents at their offspring’s absence of gratitude and manners that they put the video of his disappointed response on YouTube. This Christmas, the video has gone suddenly viral, and there are dozens of web posts all over cyberspace holding the little ingrate up as an exemplar of all that’s wrong with Christmas, children, America, materialism, and more. Many commenters are suggesting just desserts for this budding illiterate, like no Christmas presents at all, nothing but books as presents from now until puberty, or nothing but books by Dean Koonzt, Sarah Palin, or Marcel Proust. That’ll teach him.
Gee, thanks. Dad! Before the boy has even entered kindergarten, he has been roundly attacked by strangers around the globe, and elevated to a symbol of the inadequacies of a generation that doesn’t even have a name yet. His video could well become a holiday perennial, following him like the Furies, guaranteeing his place on some 15 minutes of shame “Where Are They Now?” special that TMZ, VHS or some future sleazy cable show yet unborn will present to the world ten years from now. It could cost him dates, jobs, privacy, sobriety or sanity. “Aren’t you that ‘Books for Christmas?” kid?” will be the question that greets him at hardware stores and loan interviews. His career as a librarian is ended before it has begun.
For decades, parent have mortified their children by showing embarrassing home movies of their tantrums, naked butts, and projectile vomiting to visitors, friends, and relatives. That was bad enough; exposing a child to international ridicule and humiliation, not to mention, as in this case, antipathy and hatred, is infinitely worse. These videos go everywhere, and last forever. Posting such a video of one’ own young child is beyond thoughtless; it is unfair, disrespectful, irresponsible and cruel.
Here is the Ethics Alarm Golden Rule of YouTube posting:
Post not any video of your children—or anyone else’s children— behaving in a foolish, unattractive or embarrassing manner until they are old enough to post it on YouTube themselves. Then leave it to them whether to post it or not, first making certain that they fully understand the lifetime ramifications of doing so.
Reprimanding his parents for giving him a book was wrong, but the boy had an excuse: he was, after all, only three. What his parents did to him was far worse, and they have no excuse at all.